One of the secrets to a happy life is to dine well. Another is to spend as much time by the sea as you can. Doing both at the same time? Well, that’s even better. There is something undeniably soul-enriching about eating fresh, simply prepared food while the sun sinks in the sky and the waves lap and tumble. In this environment, all the niggling doubts and insecurities that haunt us in our daily lives melt away, allowing time to focus on the important things, such as whether or not to take a post-prandial dip, or whether to have a mojito, ice cream or both.
We have taken it upon ourselves to nominate our favourite seaside venues garnered over the years holidaying in Europe. Included in the list are Michelin-starred seafood restaurants clinging to clifftops, exclusive Côte d’Azur lunch spots, little-known Italian Riviera hideaways – and not a “menu touristique” in sight. Read on, and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Tucked away on Cala Gracioneta, a quiet cove with clear and shallow waters, this lunch and dinner spot with a chic vibe scores well with visitors. As you dine on squid-ink rice, you can watch the inflatable launches carry lunch orders out to the yachts bobbing in the distance. And after a mojito or two, you can follow the coast around to the right, past the shady pines, to find privacy on the rocks and an ideal plunging spot by some rustic, photogenic boat sheds.
Take a break from Mykonos’s round-the-clock party scene at Alemàgou, a bohemian beach retreat that serves up a little slice of Tulum in the Mediterranean. Situated on Ftelia Beach, a popular windsurfing spot in the north of the island, Alemàgou – an ancient Mykonian word that means “at last” – blends contemporary and ancient Greek design elements to striking effect. Tumbledown dry-stone walls and polished concrete terraces blend seamlessly with the natural environment, traditional Greek light fittings made from dried gourds hang low over simple wooden dining tables and dappled sunlight filters through a canopy made from hanging reeds that sway gently in the breeze. Hire a 4×4, arrive early for a seafood lunch and see if you can’t resist staying for the rest of the day.
Where to stay: Grace Mykonos, a boutique hotel and art gallery that overlooks Agios Stefanos in the west of the island, is the perfect base from which to explore Mykonos by car.
Perched on a cliff in Anacapri, Il Riccio is arguably the best ventilated Michelin-starred restaurant on the Med. Onshore breezes keep the windowless dining room cool while the waiters proffer salt-baked branzino and sea urchin pulled that morning from the Gulf of Naples. But there’s more. At the back of the restaurant is an ornately tiled dessert room oozing with canoli and Neapolitans, tarts and cakes, which will ruin your gym body in one mouthful. But best of all, there’s a beach club so you can sleep off the prosecco under a parasol before plunging into the sea or checking out the Grotta Azzurra, the mystical 60m-long cavern that one-time resident Emperor Tiberius used as a temple to Neptune.
Where to stay: Il Riccio restaurant and beach club are part of the five-star family-run Capri Palace.
Drive half an hour east from Genoa along the coast road and you’ll arrive at the picturesque town of Sori, home to one of the Italian Riviera’s hidden gems, Bagni Sillo. Perched perilously on the rocks, this bar and restaurant offers decks, loungers and even a shower for those intrepid enough to take a dip. Dine on plates of mussels and breaded anchovies and watch the sun go down over a glass (or two) of chilled white wine or the house cocktail, the Sillone, a twist on the mojito with tonic water and Haitian rum. What more could you want?
Where to stay: Just half an hour’s drive east of Sori is the photogenic fishing town of Portofino, an essential stop on the Riviera. Splash out on a room at the Belmond Hotel Splendido, a pastel-coloured paradise that has welcomed many a glamorous guest over the years.
Situated on the tip of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, a rocky headland about a mile from Monaco, La Cigale occupies a coveted spot of coastline that looks out across Menton Bay and towards the Italian Riviera. First established in the 1920s, it recently reopened after a substantial redesign by architect Mr Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who has brought the interior right up to date without sacrificing any of the building’s modernist, Côte d’Azur charm. In the restaurant, chef Ms Lucie Pichon makes a nod to the nearby Italian border with a menu that includes such dishes as clam linguine and asparagus risotto.
Where to stay: Built in the grand belle époque style of the late 1800s and recently redesigned as part of a collaboration with Mr Karl Lagerfeld, the long-established Hôtel Metropole in nearby Monte Carlo is without question one of the finest hotels on the Côte d’Azur.
OK, we are cheating with this one. It’s a bar rather than a restaurant, but it’s the most scenic and Insta-friendly on the island. Cova d’en Xoroi hangs off a 100m-high cliff face. A network of staircases and tunnels leads you to its terraces where, on a clear day, you can spot the Tramuntana mountain range on Mallorca. The sunsets are epic. Order a G&T in a giant fishbowl glass and watch the sun sink below the horizon as the DJ fires up his decks inside the cave-cum-dance floor.